I grew up admiring the old-school stereotypes of manhood.
A man was expected to be strong and respectful.
He was supposed to stand up for what he believed and defend those too weak to defend themselves.
He was decisive, determined, and willing to do the hard things for a greater good.
All my boyhood heroes, from Aragorn to Luke Skywalker to Indiana Jones, exhibited these qualities.
I grew up wanting to be just like them.
As I got older, I learned that these qualities aren’t just the providence of men but that plenty of women also encapsulate these worthy character traits.
So if it’s not a particular set of virtues, what does indeed maketh the man?
Well, from a physiological standpoint, it’s testosterone.
Testosterone is a hormone produced in the testicles.
It’s our main androgenic hormone, which means it’s responsible for the development of our male sexual characteristics.
Having optimal levels is also essential for increasing muscle mass, burning fat, keeping your bones healthy, increasing your libido, and improving your erection quality.
Testosterone also gives us our competitive drive and promotes an overall sense of confidence and well being.
Sure, testosterone gets a bad rap sometimes for inspiring douchebags to behave, like well, douchebags. But the truth is having your levels where they should be is essential to living a happy, healthy life.
When our levels are low, we become lazy, unhappy, weak, and over sensitive.
And according to most of the women I’m friends with, there seem to be a lot more guys exhibiting these qualities than there used to be.
The low testosterone epidemic
One study of 5000 Danish men, showed that the men born in the 1960s had testosterone levels 14% lower than males of the same age from the 1920s.
And if it can happen to the Vikings, it can definitely be happening to you.
Another study done in Massachusetts showed that testosterone levels have been dropping an average of 1% per year. To put this in context, this means that a 30-year-old man in 2023 would have the same levels as a 48 year old had in 2005.
No bueno my friend, no bueno at all.
Having sub optimal testosterone levels can make you less confident, more likely to gain body fat, kill your sex drive, and basically make you feel like deep-fried dog shit.
There is no single culprit for this societal decline of testosterone levels.
Instead it’s due to a combination of factors ranging from men generally being fatter and less active than they used to be, higher exposure to environmental toxins and the fact that most fellas are over stressed and under rested.
The good news is that by addressing these factors at the root, you can do a lot towards getting your levels to where they should be.
And that specific number is going to different for everyone.
Having a total testosterone level anywhere from 270 – 1070 ng/dl could be considered “healthy.”
But healthy doesn’t necessarily equal optimal.
You could be at 400 and feel amazing, and someone else could be at 700 and be experiencing all the adverse effects of low T.
The truth is, the optimal level is different for everyone.
If you’re feeling like Steve Carrell in Crazy Stupid Love: Weak, out of whack, and with little to no sex drive, odds are, you’re not running on a full tank.
Inversely, if you’re feeling a little more like Gosling: Strong, chock full of confidence and swagger, and hornier than a funeral in New Orleans, you’re probably in a pretty good place T wise.
Dr’s recommend you start getting your levels tested at age 35 and then every 5 years afterwards.
Personally, I get them done annually and am considering ramping that up to every six months now that I’m in my fifties.
If you’re exhibiting any of the above symptoms, it’s worth checking to see if your levels are low.
And whatever age you are, if you’re crushing workouts, feel driven to pursue your goals and are generally feeling pretty darn awesome, it makes sense to get your levels tested so you’ll have an idea of what your own personal optimal level is.
This is useful information to have, especially if you ever plan on getting Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT)as it can help guide your Dr towards prescribing the optimal dose for you.
Make sure your well rested and avoid any hard training 48 hours before your blood draw as those can negatively influence your levels over the short term.
The testing company will email over your results within a few days.
You’ll see two numbers; Total and Free Testosterone.
Total is the sum of all the testosterone you have in your blood stream. Most of which is attached to a protein called Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG) and isn’t readily available for you to use.
Free testosterone remains unattached to SHBG and is the stuff you can actually use. This is only a fraction of your total testosterone.
Any intervention, whether it’s training, nutrition or supplementation based, should lead to a measurable improvement in both of these numbers.
How to naturally boost testosterone
Regardless of what your current levels maybe, in the vast majority of cases you can bump them up considerably by dialing in your training, nutrition and lifestyle.
I’ve seen people more than double their levels and start feeling considerably more savage just by getting these squared away and you should start here before considering TRT.
At some point, going on the sauce makes a lot of sense for most men with a resources to do so.
After all, Father Time unfortunately, remains undefeated. But you can kick that can at least 10 years down the road by focusing on reducing your body fat, getting enough sleep and making sure your diet, training and supplementation are optimized.
One of the most profound ways you can influence your testosterone levels is by reducing your body fat and increasing your muscle mass.
Excess body fat increases your levels of aromatase, an enzyme that converts testosterone into estrogens.
Whereas having more muscle has been associated with higher testosterone levels.
A good goal if you’re looking to optimize your testosterone levels is to get your body fat percentage to between 8% and 15%.
Lift Heavy Shit
Over the long term, strength training will pack on muscle and help make losing fat easier.
And if that’s not enough, a lifting session will also provide an immediate short term boost of up to 50% in your testosterone levels.
Just make sure to choose the right lifts and attack them with all of your might.
The evidence is clear that multi joint exercises like squats, deadlifts, chin ups and presses elicit a much higher testosterone response than single joint exercises like curls and leg extensions.
As a bonus, these type of exercises also develop a balanced looking physique and real world functional strength.
To get your hormones purring like a jungle cat, you only need to get in 2 – 3 strength training sessions a week.
Keep your training sessions to less than an hour (not including warm ups and cool downs)
Another underutilized type of training which has been shown boost testosterone specifically in middle aged men, is sprinting.
This doesn’t mean you have to go out and start bashing out wind sprints at the local track. There are several low impact options you can use to get all the fat loss and testosterone boosting benefits of sprinting with just a fraction of the impact.
I’ve written an entire free guide on how to do just that, and you can get it here
Rest at least 48 hours between hard training sessions.
And on your days away from the gym try and walk between 7500 and 10,000 steps.
This combination of intense lifting and lots of walking is fantastic for both optimizing your hormones and getting lean.
Get 7 – 9 Hours of Sleep
Not only will sleep help you manage food cravings and recover from your workouts, it’s also when your bodies testosterone production peaks.
It’s no exaggeration to say that if you don’t get this squared away, all the lifting, dieting and supplementing in the world won’t do you much good.
Even just one week of fewer than 5 hours of sleep per night can drag your T levels down by 15%.
Which puts you at the same levels as a man 10 – 15 years older than you.
Fix Your Diet
Eat a diet comprising of mostly veggies and protein, along with a moderate amount of whole grains.
Use fruit for snacks and dessert and make sure to eat a good amount of fat from sources like olive oil, grass fed beef, fish, avocados, and macadamia nuts.
Evidence has shown low-fat diets to be associated with lower T levels.
If you need to drop body fat, take a slow and steady approach. If you go too deep into a caloric deficit in hopes of more rapid fat loss, you will actually drive testosterone levels down.
A caloric deficit of 4 – 500 calories per day provides a nice balance between fat loss and supporting optimal testosterone levels.
Learn To Chill
There’s an inverse relationship between “the stress hormone” cortisol and testosterone.
As cortisol levels rise, testosterone levels go down.
So if you’re under chronic stress from work, family, and the shit show that is our 24-hour news cycle, the odds are your T is being adversely affected.
Practices like Yin Yoga, meditation, time in nature, and deep breathing can help you dial things down and find a little peace.
Oh, and get a dog 🙂
Most fellas trying to optimize their T start with supplements which is a mistake.
Because if you don’t have the above lifestyle factors dialed in, supplements won’t do anything more than drain your wallet.
But assuming you’ve got those taken care of, some intelligent supplementation can make a big difference.
A multi-vitamin/greens drink: Look for something organic and with a broad spectrum of different vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. Consider this your nutritional insurance because getting everything you need from diet is extremely challenging, so this ones a no brainer:
Vitamin D: Although most multi vitamins will contain vitamin D, it’s usually going to be an ineffectual dose. The RDA is a woefully low 800iU, whereas if you have symptoms of low testosterone, you should aim to get a total of 4000iU per day.
However, if you can spend 20 – 30 minutes in the late morning or afternoon sun wearing as little clothing as vanity or the law will allow, then you can skip supplementing for that day.
Magnesium, Zinc and Boron. You can take these in pill, powder, or topical form. Just make sure you’re getting them somehow. Most men are deficient in these essential minerals.
Zinc and Magnesium are crucial for testosterone production and Boron helps convert your total testosterone into the more useable free testosterone.
A Natural Testosterone Booster:
Several herbs have been shown to help boost testosterone levels.
Specifically Ashwagandha, Tongkat Ali, Fadogia Agrestis and Bulbine Natalensis.
These don’t work directly on testosterone per se, so you can take them without messing with your natural production.
Instead, they address things like reducing cortisol levels or increasing luteinizing hormone, an essential precursor to testosterone.
Once you have everything else is dialed in, these can provide a very nice bump to your levels.
Optimizing testosterone has been a big focus of mine over the last few years.
Not just to “scratch my own itch,” so to speak, but also because most of the fellas I coach are at the age where this can become an issue.
And if you feel like you might be having issues with it, there’s no reason to feel ashamed or throw in the towel and wave your virility goodbye.
Just focus on getting the above factors dialed in, and you’ll be amazed by what can happen.
If you’d like me to take out all the guesswork and make this an easy to follow process for you, you can learn more about the Ready To Rock coaching program here.
It’s specifically focused in dialing in everything you need to burn fat, build muscle and naturally boost your T levels.
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